RIO DE JANEIRO – Colombia was already without Radamel Falcao. Now Uruguay is without Luis Suarez.
Instead of a matchup between two of the world’s top strikers, the round-of-16 match between Colombia and Uruguay at the World Cup will be a test of which team copes best without its talisman.
Suarez was banned by FIFA on Thursday from all soccer for four months for biting Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini in Uruguay’s 1-0 win over Italy in their last group game, a result that sent his team through to the knockout rounds.
That means the World Cup lost one of its best and most colorful players, and Uruguay lost its main scoring threat.
Uruguay struggled badly without him in its opening loss to Costa Rica, when the Liverpool striker remained on the bench as he recovered from knee surgery. Suarez returned to score both goals against England in a 2-1 win, showing just how important he is to the team.
As part of his ban, which covers Uruguay’s next nine games, Suarez isn’t even allowed to enter the Maracana for today’s match.
Colombia has already proven it can cope without Falcao, the country’s biggest star who missed the tournament after failing to recover from a knee injury. Colombia was one of the most impressive teams in the group stages, winning all three of its games and scoring nine goals in the process.
In Falcao’s absence, Monaco playmaker James Rodriguez has stepped up to become the team’s focal point, scoring three goals and setting up two more in the group stage.
What Uruguay’s reaction to the Suarez ban will be is anyone’s guess.
The team does have players who can step up – notably Edinson Cavani and Diego Forlan. Cavani scored Uruguay’s goal vs. Costa Rica.